A call for resonance: anniversary of violent Charlottesville rally approaching

Mural in Charlottesville of community members who “fight against hate” and are “striving for unity." ( Photo courtesy of Bill Clarke)

By Forrest White

Aug. 6, 2019 -- For years, the coming of August in Charlottesville meant the start of a new season of learning for students from preschool through college, the promise of young lives blossoming anew amid the dog days of summer.

But the events of Aug. 12, 2017 changed that forever.

There is still promise and hope among the young and old, but there are also memories of that day two years ago, when violence erupted at a so-called “Unite the Right” rally of white supremacists.

Heather Heyer, 32, a Charlottesville native, was killed and 19 others were injured that day. Virginia State Police Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, 40, died that Saturday as well when their police helicopter crashed, as they patrolled above the mayhem below. 

“The events of August 12, 2017, uncovered the implicitly sustained racial injustice in our community,” said Bill Clarke, lay leader at First United Methodist Church of Charlottesville. “We had hidden our heads in the sand. It is a problem that extends back for generations and we have much work to do on reconciliation.”

Charlottesville’s “Unity Days 2019” began in May, but events ramp up this week.

A press release from the city describes it as a series of events and programs designed to educate, inspire and honor people in the community and move the city toward economic and racial justice.

There are a variety of events on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 10-11, and an interfaith worship service at First Baptist Church in Charlottesville on Monday, Aug. 12, at 7 p.m.

First UMC will play host to “Charlottesville Resonates” on Saturday at 11 a.m., featuring 25 trombones and audience harmonies.

“The idea is to replace the dissonance of August 12, 2017, with a community exercise of resonance,” Clarke said.

Organizers invited counselors from the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church to be in Charlottesville this weekend for anyone struggling with sadness or anxiety as they reflect on the events of 2017.

The city was intentional about planning events with and not for those most affected by the events of 2017, Clarke said.

Out of the planning came a mural in downtown Charlottesville, with images of those from the community who have been persistent in the “fight against hate” and “striving for unity,” Clarke said.

Among those included in the mural are the Rev. Phil Woodson, First UMC associate pastor; the Rev. Robert Lewis, Hinton Avenue UMC; and the Rev. Isaac Collins, Wesley Memorial UMC.

First UMC sits across the street from the Robert E. Lee Monument, which has been the focus of controversy since the city council voted in the spring of 2016 to remove it. Organizers of the “Unite the Right” rally in 2017 said they were coming to the city to protest the removal of the monument.

"Photos of the statue usually include the steeple of First UMC,” Clarke said.

The church hasn’t been able to offer worship services on the second August weekend because of the violence in 2017 and expectation of a return of violence last year.

Clarke said he is looking forward to Sunday when the church will hold a special combined worship service at 9 a.m. The church website promotes the service as “Confession to Communion: Acknowledging Privilege, Yielding Power and Receiving Grace.”

The First UMC family invites anyone from around the conference to attend Saturday morning’s event and Sunday worship.

--Forrest White is a news associate with the conference Communications Office.


The Cross and Flame is a registered trademark, and the use is supervised by the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) of The United Methodist Church. Permission to use the Cross and Flame must be obtained from the GCFA, Attn: Legal Department, PO Box 340029, Nashville, TN 37203-0029; phone 615-369-2334; fax 615-369-2330

Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

The Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church
10330 Staples Mill Road, Glen Allen, VA 23060
PO Box 5606, Glen Allen, VA 23058-5606
(804) 521-1100
Click here for directions to the Center